Washington State Ferries suffers $3 million damage during a windstorm on December 17, 1990.

  • By Alan J. Stein
  • Posted 3/03/2001
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 3042

On December 17, 1990, winter storms cause more than $3 million damage to the vessels and ferry terminals operated by Washington State Ferries. This is the largest amount of storm damage endured by the ferry system since the Columbus Day storm of 1962.

The brunt of the damage was to the ferry Elwha, which was in for repairs at the Port of Everett's Fisherman's Boat Shop when the storm struck. High winds bashed the ferry against the pier, destroying a wooden barrier and snapping off pilings. From there the ferry beat against a concrete pier until the car deck ended up looking like a crumpled wad of paper.

The winds began at 6 p.m., but the Elwha was not towed away from the pier by two tugs until 10 p.m. The hull was not damaged during the storm, so the vessel was never in danger of sinking.

The Vashon Island dock suffered also. Waves smashed into wing walls and dolphins (wooden structures used to guide the ferries into the dock), obliterating many of them. The passenger-only dock was put out of commission for more than a month.

Waves also destroyed one of the wing walls at the Lopez Island dock in the San Juan Islands. Until repairs were completed, only small ferries had access to the island.


"Storm Damage Expected to Cost Ferry System About $3 Million" Seattle Post-Intelligencer January 3, 1991, pp. B1-B2.

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